Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

Phina Oruche – Identity Crisis Review Phina Oruche – Identity Crisis Review
Phina Oruche – Identity Crisis Review

Have you ever had a life event cause you so much pain that you had to put pen to paper to express your emotions? That was the genesis of Identity Crisis, the latest theatre production by Phina Oruche ((ITV’s Footballers’ Wives, Channel 4’s Hollyoaks).


The play was born out of the sudden death of Oruche’s 19-year-old niece at her home in 2011. This calamitous event was followed by a series of racial and international incidents happening throughout the world and in Phina’s personal life that lead her to write and star in this hilarious one-woman play with a deep underlying message.


Starting with her niece’s death, the shocking and harrowing event being vividly relived through her portrayal of the unsympathetic police liaison woman, Phina took us on a journey of her life to the present day.


She recounts her emotional rollercoaster journey in the world of modelling through a series of flash back photographs projected on a large white sheet which dominates the sparse scenery.


From her small steps in modelling in the UK, we travel to France and then across to the USA where she reigned supreme for a number of years as she picked up headlining assignments with brands such as Gap, Essence magazine to name but a few, gracing the cover of many.


Through her various characters she skilfully manages to draw the audience into her world of morass, sorrow and extraordinary achievements whilst at the same time balancing it with witty observations and laugh out loud humour.


With great vocal dexterity, energy and an uncanny ability to switch characters in the blink of an eye we felt her pain, her uncomfortably raw emotion but also bathed in the glory of her achievements. From her contorted facial expressions and staccato sentences there were points in the play that showed parts of her life that were palpably deeply unpleasant.


In a recent interview, when asked why she feels or sees Identity as a crisis? She replied “I don’t see identity as crisis, far from it, I HAD an identity crisis because all the external labels that society places on you such as mother, wife, actress, friend, radio presenter etc all collapsed.”


She continues “I want the audience to understand that we are more than the summary of our DNA, we are more than the culture we have adopted or adapted to, that we are the sum of our collective parts and that there is more that unites us than the things people use to separate us, and finally that for me, I got my identity fixed in God, my creator, because when as else failed it was all I had.”


It is a point of conjecture whether or not she delivers on her goal of making us understand what makes us us,  ie our self identity any better. This was due in part to her flitting between characters at such a rate that it was difficult and sometimes confusing to which of the characters was undergoing identity issues.


Exploring fewer characters but delving and fleshing out deeper, the central players in her life’s journey, would have helped greatly in driving home the mains themes of the play. I was expecting to leave with my head buzzing with many unaswered questions about self, identity and society’s labels. Sadly it wasn’t the case.


Despite these few and minor gripes, Phina’s effervescence, sharp and pertinent political and societal observations shone through brightly. She has clearly not lost her arresting looks. This combined with her lithe movements and energetic way she commanded the stage, made the play an absolute pleasure to watch.


So if you are looking for a truly inspirational night of how through self belief, sheer determination, one can overcome the shackles that life places on us, then a night at the Oval House should be your this week’s to do list.



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